‘Open the schools’: Afghan girls protest in Kabul for right to education | Afghanistan

Fatima Fokina

Women and girls staged a protest near the Taliban’s ministry of education in Kabul on Saturday, calling on the group to reopen girls’ secondary schools in Afghanistan.

The protesters chanted: “Education is our right – open the doors of girls’ schools!” as armed Taliban members looked on. They held banners that said: “Education is our fundamental right, not a political plan” as they marched for a short distance. They dispersed when Taliban fighters arrived at the scene later.

The Taliban have been widely condemned for a last-minute U-turn last week ordering schools to close, just hours after teenage pupils began to arrive for the start of the new academic year. Since the Taliban took power, girls’ primary schools in most of the country, along with all boys’ schools, have remained open, but older girls have not been allowed back in the classroom.

The Taliban’s education ministry said girls’ secondary schools would restart on Wednesday last week, but the decision was overruled by the group’s central leadership, who said they would remain closed until a “comprehensive” and “Islamic” plan had been drawn up.

“Even the Prophet said everyone has the right to education, but the Taliban have snatched this right from us,” said one protester, Nawesa, at the demonstration, which was organised by two women’s rights groups.

“The Taliban can not oppress the women of Afghanistan,” said another, Laila Basim.

After the Taliban’s ban on girls’ education beyond the age of 11, women’s rights activist Mahbouba Seraj went on Afghanistan’s Tolo TV to ask: “How do we as a nation trust you with your words any more? What should we do to please you? Should we all die?”

An Afghan charity called PenPath, which runs dozens of “secret” schools with thousands of volunteers, plans to stage countrywide protests demanding the Taliban reverse its order, according to Matiullah Wesa, PenPath’s founder.

The Taliban’s U-turn is believed to reflect divisions between hardline and more moderate elements. In some provinces, particularly in northern Afghanistan, local Taliban officials have allowed teenage girls to continue to study, but others appear to oppose the idea.

The US special representative for Afghanistan said on Saturday he was hopeful the U-turn would be rethought. Thomas West told the Doha Forum: “I am hopeful we will see a reversal of this decision in the coming days.” The US had cancelled economic meetings with the Taliban in Doha, officials said.

In a further deterioration of life under Taliban rule, women were prevented from boarding aircraft, including some flying overseas, because they were travelling without a male guardian, two Afghan airline officials said on Saturday.

Officials said dozens of women who arrived at Kabul’s international airport on Friday to board domestic and international flights were told that they could not do so without a male guardian. Some of the women were dual nationals returning to their homes overseas, including some from Canada, it was reported.

Women were denied access to flights to Islamabad, Dubai and Turkey on Kam Air and the state-owned Ariana Afghan Airlines after a Taliban leadership order, the officials said.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/26/open-the-schools-afghanistan-girls-protest-taliban-kabul-for-right-to-education

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